Big(s) win: Men’s basketball uses size advantage to outfight St. John’s

January 11, 2018

In head coach Patrick Ewing’s return to Madison Square Garden, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-4, 2-3 Big East) survived a tough test from the St. John’s Red Storm (10-7, 0-5 Big East) on Tuesday night, prevailing 69-66. Junior center Jessie Govan led the Hoyas with 18 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 29 seconds left, to go along with 13 rebounds, while junior forward Marcus Derrickson added 15 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds led the Johnnies with 17 points and six assists while sophomore guard Justin Simon contributed 16 points and five steals.

While Ewing and his coaching counterpart, former Johnnies star and Georgetown rival Chris Mullin, roamed the sidelines, both teams played in a manner befitting of the classic showdowns between the two coaches in their heyday: tough, grind-it-out basketball.

“It was good to be back and the game was like old times,” Ewing said. “It was a knockout, drag out fight. The guys fought hard. We made mistakes but we played hard. After the way we lost to Creighton, it was a great way to bounce back.”

Ewing’s Hoyas shot just 33 percent from the field to go along with 22 turnovers, many of which were live ball miscues that the Johnnies converted into easy points. However, Georgetown asserted its size advantage throughout the contest, holding a 49-34 rebounding advantage and shooting 29 free throws. Paradoxically, the Johnnies held a 32-16 advantage in points in the paint, but the Hoyas made up that deficit at the free throw line, while the St. John’s guards were able to knife into the lane.

Neither team established separation in the first half, as the score was tied at 31 at the end of the period. The Hoyas shot just 29 percent from the field but were aided by a late flurry from freshman guard Jahvon Blair and Derrickson, who combined to score six unanswered points to close the half. The Johnnies similarly struggled in the first half, shooting 36 percent including just 2-13 from three-point range.

In the second half, the Hoyas started to put their stamp on the game, wearing down the Johnnies’ thin front line to take their largest lead at 49-42 with 7:14 left in regulation. From there, the teams would exchange baskets until the Johnnies uncorked an 8-0 run, capped off by a steal by Ponds which led to a dunk by Simon with 3:05 remaining. Govan would quickly respond with a three-point play on the ensuing possession, but the Johnnies fought their way back once more, tying the game at 64 with 50 seconds left and setting the stage for Govan’s game-winner.

With the shot-clock running down and the Hoyas out of options, Govan knocked down a deep three from the top of the key to give his team a three-point lead with 26.7 seconds remaining. The Red Storm would have one final chance to tie the game after two free throws by Georgetown senior guard Jonathan Mulmore, but came up short on a three-point attempt by Ponds.

The Hoyas return to action Saturday against No. 13 Seton Hall (14-3, 3-1 Big East) in Newark. Tip-off is slated for 12 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on FS1. Follow @GUVoiceSports for updates and breaking news.

Santul Nerkar
Santul is the Voice's former executive culture editor and Halftime Sports editor. Follow him on Twitter @SantulN to become one of his rare few followers.

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